The fire alarm went off at the gym.
I exchanged awkward glances with the stranger next to me to make sure I wasn't hallucinating. I wasn't.
The speakers kept blaring: "Can I have your attention. There is a fire in the building. Please make your way to the nearest exit."
After a moment of hesitation, the whole gym released a collective sigh of defeat as the masses filed toward the door.
I grabbed my bag and threw on a jacket before joining the others outside, but I didn't slow down to pull my sweatpants on. That was my first mistake.
Outside the building, I deliberated my options:
- Wait outside until the emergency was sorted or
- Walk to another gym on campus and finish my workout there
It was 20° F (approx. -7° C), and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
Since none of the staff seemed to know what was going on, I assumed it wasn't a drill and it would take us forever to get back in.
I picked #2.
The nearest gym was a 15-minute walk. I could've easily stopped in one of the buildings along the way to put my pants back on but figured a few more minutes of cold exposure wouldn't do much damage.
So I braved the trek in shorts and a jacket. That was my second mistake.
While speed walking toward the second gym, I felt stares and heard whispers of shock as I passed people with my bare legs. How is she wearing shorts in this weather?
Their judgment made me start to regret my decision, and I got defensive in my head.
You don't know why I'm in shorts. I'm not crazy. I could've just walked away from a burning building for all you know.
I mentally attacked these strangers for judging me.
Until eventually, I looked around at the people I was "defending myself against" only to find they weren't looking at me at all. They weren't talking about me. They weren't whispering about me. They weren't judging me. I was the one judging them, not the other way around.
They were worried about their own problems, not my bare legs. There was no need to defend against attacks that didn't exist.
My thoughts toward these people didn't reflect reality. Insecurity warped how I saw them. I was self-conscious, so I projected my worries on innocent bystanders.
When I feel harshly judged by others, it's really because I'm harshly judging myself.
So I must remember, nobody is worrying about you. They're too busying judging themselves too.